Stewed prunes are delicious, so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Cinnamon Prunes, I decided to give it a try. The recipe called for adding both stick cinnamon and lemon or orange slices to prunes and water, and then stewing. The Cinnamon Prunes were tasty with a sunny citrus undertone and a hint of cinnamon. The recipe’s a keeper. I’ll definitely make it again.
Here’s the original recipe:
When I was flipping through a hundred-year-old recipe book published by Good Housekeeping, I was intrigued by this recipe – and then when I saw that the recipe author was from Danville, Pennsylvania, I just knew that I needed to make it. I grew up about 20 miles from Danville – and I seldom see recipes from this area of central Pennsylvania in hundred-year-old cookbooks. The cookbook doesn’t give the author’s name – and maybe it’s a stretch – but could my ancestors have known the author?
When I made this recipe I skipped the overnight soaking of the prunes. I have vague memories of prunes being very dry years ago – and that they needed to be soaked for a long time before cooking; however, modern prunes are generally moist, and just heating them with a little water is sufficient to get prunes that are nice and soft.
Put prunes in a saucepan and cover with water; add stick cinnamon and lemon or orange slices. Using medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Can be served warm or cold.
Hundred-year-old cookbooks sometimes contain very basic recipes, such as a recipe for stewed prunes. I’m a little surprised when an author puts such a simple recipe in a cookbook – though I also find it fascinating how basic foods have changed over the past hundred years. Back then (and even when I was young) prunes were very dry and needed extensive soaking and cooking to make tender stewed prunes; whereas today many supermarket prunes are very moist when taken out of the package and need to be stewed for only a few minutes.
Here’s the original recipe:
One-half pound of prunes is about 1 cup of prunes. I’m not clear why the directions refer to 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon for each two cups of prunes. Maybe the author was referring to the volume of prunes after they are soaked. In any case, when I updated the recipe, rather than trying to estimate the volume of the prunes, I assumed that the recipe calls for adding 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon (if desired).
1 cup water (more may be needed if the prunes are very dry.)
1/4 cup sugar, if desired
1 tablespoon lemon juice, if desired
Put prunes and water in a saucepan. If desired, stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat until it simmers. Cook until the prunes are tender and the liquid is syrupy (about 15 minutes – if the prunes are moist; longer if they are very dry). Remove from heat, and, if desired stir in the lemon juice.
Cranberries are beginning to appear in the produce section at my supermarket. I remembered seeing a recipe for Cranberries with Prunes in a 1915 issue of Good Housekeeping, and just had to give it a try.
Cranberries with Prunes are a lovely taste treat with bright notes of both fruits. The rich sweetness of the prunes mingles with the tart cranberries to create a vibrant mixture. Like many hundred-old-recipes, this classic recipe is simple to make with only four ingredients.
This recipe combines two super foods. Both cranberries and prunes are noted for having lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other good things. Amazingly, even though terms like antioxidant were unknown to cooks a hundred years ago, people seemed to have an intuitive sense of healthy food combinations.
Cranberries with Prunes
3 cups cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup prunes
Combine cranberries, sugar, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil using medium heat; then reduce heat and simmer until cranberries burst. Add prunes and remove from heat. Cool before serving.
Adapted from recipe in Good Housekeeping (November, 1915)
I’m often amazed how foods and cooking techniques have changed over the past hundred years. As with many old recipes, I needed to adapt this recipe. The original recipe provided detailed directions for preparing the prunes.
Cover the prunes with water and soak overnight. Simmer gently till thoroughly tender. Take up with a skimmer, and when perfectly cool slip out the stones. Add the cranberries to the water in which these were boiled, pouring in more water if necessary. . .
The prunes I used were already pitted and very moist, so there was no need to soak them overnight or to pit.